Friday, March 07, 2008

Boxing Blogging: 3/07/08

I'm blogging tonight's FNF, but also giving notice to one of the fights showcased by GoFightLive, which is a welcome addition to the boxing universe and lets the casual fan watch a few extra fights online they wouldn't get anywhere else.

Curtis Stevens (18-2, 13 KOs) TKO8 Thomas Reid (35-22-1, 13 KOs

This was the GoFightLive bout, and it was surprisingly entertaining. Reid is one of those guys whose fought and lost to every name in his division: Librado Andrade, Jaidon Codrington, Shaun George, Prince Badi Ajamu, Montell Griffin (twice), Lou Del Valle. He's a wily veteran who gets brought in teach young guys a few good tricks. Stevens, by contrast, is a young prospect coming off a loss to fellow up-and-comer Andre Dirrell (his only other loss was a TKO to Marcos Primera which he avenged in his next fight).

Reid made the fight interesting by dropping Stevens at the end of round two. It was one of those shots where it was clear that, had the round not been over, Reid easily could have finished Stevens off. And though Stevens steadied himself and began to take control of the fight, he was hurt again in round seven, and going into the eighth and final round, I was thinking "this could be interesting to score."

It never made it to final bell. Stevens turned on the power and blasted out Reid, having him out on his feet in the corner before the ref wisely stopped the fight.

One can be of two minds about this. On the one hand, one can worry about Stevens struggling with a guy like Reid -- someone the top guys in the 168 and 175 pound picture should be able to handle with relative ease. On the other hand, Stevens showed a lot of mental fortitude. Coming off a high profile loss, knocked down and in a shootout with a journeyman -- these are how downward career spirals start. Stevens dug deep, and came up with the late knockout -- exactly how you want to see someone in his position respond.

Both fighters, I think, earned some respect in this fight. Reid will continue to do what he's always done -- make a career out of testing rising prospects. And Stevens probably could use a few more light fights to make sure he's totally back in the game, but now he knows that he can come back from adversity, and that's huge for a young fighter working his way back up.

Jose Gonzalez (11-2-1, 9 KOs) D10 Jason LeHoullier (21-0-1, 8 KOs)

Teddy was right: this was a gift draw for the New England based LeHoullier in a New England venue. But the fight was not as lopsided as he made it out to be. Gonzalez was more active, but LeHoullier was landing the harder shots, which made for some difficult rounds to score. Ultimately, I had it 97-93 Gonzalez (in comparison to Teddy's 99-91 card). But I freely admit I leaned a bit towards LeHoullier on the close rounds -- there wasn't all that much more room to push in his direction. The judge who scored it 96-94 for the Maine native was watching another fight, or engaging in a little home town cooking.

Gonzalez fights well on the inside for a tall guy, but it still probably isn't a wise tactical move. I'm also skeptical of his ability to carry power into the 154 pound division (he started his career at light welterweight). But he's likable, with a good work rate and decent skills, so he'll do alright for himself. LeHoullier needs to work better on the inside -- he did okay tonight because against a much taller opponent he was allowed to get in with ease, but he didn't seize the opportunity with the gusto that he needed. Next up for Gonzalez is a rematch of the entertaining six round majority decision loss he received against Carson Jones earlier this year. That should be fun to watch.

Cristobal Cruz (36-11-1, 23 KOs) MD12 Thomas Mashaba (20-2-4, 12 KOs)

First, can we now agree that Cruz's dreadfully boring fight with Zahir Raheem was not his fault? I remember that fight, and I remember Atlas blaming both guys for tying up. After watching the whirlwind activity of Cruz tonight against Mashaba (he set a divisional record for most punches thrown), I think it's clear that if anything is stopping the action, it's not him.

Second, what does Teddy Atlas have against Cristobal Cruz? In the last fight, he unfairly blamed him for the dullness. In this fight, he was starting to make murmurs around round 10 about how the fight should be stopped. Now, to be fair, Cruz is a guy who comes full steam ahead and leaves himself wide open to get hit. And hit he was. But he hit Mashaba more! One can make the case that Mashaba was landing the harder shots, but Cruz was landing plenty of excellent punches, and far more of them. The thing about Cruz is, even though he has no defense, he throws so much that short of getting into a hug-fest like Raheem did, it's difficult not to simply be overwhelmed.

Based on his activity during the second half of the fight, I gave Cruz the decision by one point -- an upset victory I think he earned. But you'd never know it by listening to Atlas (who I normally think is right on the money).

Cruz has been fighting since he was 14(!), and has lived the life of a tough, hard-scrabbled journeyman. This victory gave him the IBO Featherweight Title -- a great achievement for a game, hard-working fighter.

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